« AnteriorContinua »
the view and way to that blessedness, which will never end?
5. Lastly, It is a faith that excites the most serious diligence that they do not come short, or fail of seeing and enjoying the goodness God hath laid up for them that love him.
After the most raised views of the promised blessedness, it is no unusual thing for a believer to turn in, and debate the matter with himself, in such manner as this. O my soul! are my hopes sure and well-grounded? Am I indeed an heir of that glory, in comparison of which all this world is to be disvalued and contemned? Am I a member of Christ, and in the number of those who having received him, and have power given to become sons of God? If children then Beirs, beirs of God and joint-beirs with Christ. And under the profession of this, what have I to evidence it to be real? Is the bent of my heart, and the course of my life such as becomes one , that expects to see the goodness of God in the land of the living ?
Who can have so glorious a prize before him, and not be solicitous to make it sure ? Strive, and pray, and watch, and run, and with unfainting perseverance hold out to the end, that ye may lay hold on eternal life. Upon this ground, Paul was at so much pains with himself; left that by any means, after he had preached to others, be himself should be a cast-away, 1 Cor. ix. 26, 27. And David earnestly prays, Psalm cxxxix. 23, 24. Search me, O God, and know my heart ; try me, and know my thoughts ; and Jee if
there be any wickedness in me ; and lead me in the way everlasting
This faith is to work in the soul it supports or keeps from fainting. Now it is easy to thew,
III. Whence and in what manner it helps to do so. That it is of special influence, in order to this, is plain from the example of our blessed Lord, Who for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, and despised the shame, Heb. xii. 2. The proposed joy which was to be his reward, drew him chearfully on through all the sorrows and sufferings that lay in his way. And the Apostle tells us, for this cause we faint not ; no, whatever we suffer we still hold out :
While we look not at the things that are seen, but at the things that are not seen: for the things that are seen, are temporal : but the things that are not seen, are eternal, 2 Cor. iv. 16, 17, 18. This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith, 1 John v.4. The faith of seeing the gooaness of God in the land of the living, helps to carry us through our prefent trials : and this several ways.
1. From the transcendent excellency the believing foul discerns in it, to which the labours and sufferings of the present life bear no proportion. Though heaven does not lie open to an eye of sense, the believer sees so much of it, as makes him sit down abundantly satisfied with his choice, and to bless God for giving him counsel, not to take up with earth for his portion, but lay up his treasure in heaven. He views the goodness reserved in the land of the living, in its causes, nature, and end ; and cannot but have raised apprehensions of it, as worthy its di
vine Author, and answering the costs and preparations expended and gone through about it. Infinite love laid the foundation of the heavenly kingdom, and that from everlasting: Infinite merit regained it, when loft, and made way for the offer and promise to take place : Infinite wisdom and power contrived the frame, and raised the superstructure: And infinite grace will see that there is nothing wanting to compleat the happiness of the ransomed of the Lord, upon their arrival there. And whilst the saints view it by faith, under such considerations as these, and can give a reason of their hope, as to an interest in all; what wonder is it if they have their spirits revived, and their hearts encouraged to bear, or suffer, or part with any thing here below?
It is our undue esteem of the good things of this life, as if there were nothing higher; and our excessive fear of the evils, as if not to be made
up by something better, that make us so loath to part with the one, and so apt to sink under the other.
No reason hath the faint to faint in the day of trial, but to rejoyce and fing, even in the valley of the shadow of death , seeing by faith he can look and hope for heaven beyond it.
2. Faith as to the heavenly felicity is of use to keep saints from fainting under their present sufferings, as it is what those sufferings tend to prepare them for. Our light affli&tions, faith the Apostle, which are but for a moment, work for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory : And for this cause zee faint not, i Cor. iv. 17.
Our heaviest sorrows are influential unto our highest happiness, and who can sink under them, that knows whither they tend ? All things, to the saints, shall work together for Good: and affictions among the rest ; as they serve to purge out their corruptions, actuate their graces, make them meet for heaven, and bring them under the special promise of it, 2 Tim. ii. 12. if we suffer with Christ, we Mall reign with them.
The poor, the mourner, the persecuted are particularly pronounced blessed; because theirs is the kingdom of heaven. And by these rough strokes, they are fitting for their designed place in the celestial temple. The dolorous way is what our blessed Lord travelled before them, and he is now entered into his glory. Rom. viii. 17. If so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.
3. Faith looking upwards to the goodness of God in the land of the living, sometimes fills the hearts of saints with a divine joy ; which joy of their Lord is their strength, Neh. viii. 10.
Three things may be matter of joy to faints in their believing contemplations of heaven.
(1.) Their present title to it, founded on Christ's purchase, and the Father's promise. Heaven is the purchased poffeffion, the fruit of Christ's blood, and believers as such, have a new Covenant title to it. Being children they are heirs, and the everlasting kingdom is their portion. And the Father's promise settles the fame ; and this on purpose that his people may rejoice in the hope of it. Heb. vi. 17, 18. God willing more abundantly to thew unto the heirs of
promise the immutability of bis counsel, confirmed it by an oath : That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might bave strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay bold of the hope set before us,
(2.) What they are thus entitled to, they shall never lose, nor be deprived of. The immortal unfading inheritance is reserved in heaven for them, who are kept by the power of God thro' faith unto salvation. Heaven is reserved for them, and they are kept for it: so that possession is sure. And in this they may greatly rejoice, even in the midst of their present heaviness. Especially considering,
(3.) That e're long faith shall be turned into sight, and they shall enter upon the podesfion of what may be now said to be theirs in hope and title only. But a few more wearisom days and restless nights; but a few more conflicts with satan, the world, and the flesh, and their warfare shall be accomplished, and they shall enter into the joy of their Lord.
With such thoughts as these, believers are sometimes raised above themselves, so that as a giant refreshed with wine, they are prepared with joy to follow the Lamb, through poverty, prisons, reproaches and death, to arrive at the full possession of that glory that lies before them.
Lastly, From the heavenly felicity, faith is furnished with answers to all the temptations of satan, and the murmurings of the flesh; and being so enabled, the believer with courage and constancy holds on to the end, whatever difficulties are cast in the way. If tempted to backslide